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Medical Officer of Health for Westmoreland, Dr. Marcia Graham.
Photo: Serena Grant

The Westmoreland Health Department is ramping up activities in order to address the surge in cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the parish.

Medical Officer of Health for Westmoreland, Dr. Marcia Graham, said that the number of positive cases have almost doubled over the past month.

“We have now crossed the 500 number in terms of confirmed cases for the parish,” she noted, while addressing the monthly meeting of the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation on Thursday (December 10).

She said that of the top-20 communities in the island, which have seen an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, eight of them are located in Westmoreland.

“We are talking about places like Negril, Little London, Grange Hill, Big Bridge, Llandilo, Frome, Whitehouse and the Savanna-la-Mar business centre. We have communities all over the parish that have one or two cases, but these are the main ones that are giving us the higher number of active cases,” Dr. Graham told the meeting.

“We have been out there doing testing, and the fact of the matter is that each time we test we get [positive cases] from all over the parish. Our positivity rate is higher than that of other parishes that are also conducting tests,” she lamented.

She noted that 18.6 per cent of tests done in Little London have returned positive, 16 per cent in Grange Hill, and 12.5 per cent in Savanna-la-Mar.

Dr. Graham said that the health department will be conducting tests in the Whitehouse and Beeston Spring communities, as there have been positive cases in those areas.

She noted that along with the increase in infections, the number of deaths have also doubled.

“We had 10 deaths a month ago and now we are up to 22 and we still have others that are under investigation, and so we are talking about direct COVID-19-related deaths,” she pointed out.

Dr. Graham is appealing to citizens to do their part in stemming the community spread of the virus.

“If persons have symptoms, they need to stay home; isolate yourself, not only from the public but within your home. If there are other persons living in the household, you need to isolate yourself from them. Give them a separate bedroom, if you can do a separate bathroom, even better, but if you can’t, make sure you sanitise so that you can protect the household,” she advised.

Dr. Graham noted that entire family members are contracting COVID-19.

“One person is ill and the others have been freely interfacing with them and so we get these clusters. We have had up to seven positive contacts from one person. So I am saying that we all need to be aware and, sometimes we have to practice loving your loved ones from a distance for their health, wellness and for their safety,” she said.

Dr. Graham commended the staff at the health department, who have been working assiduously to contain the virus, and expressed gratitude to the municipality, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), the business community and other stakeholders in the parish, for their support.

“We have received masks, hand sanitisers, donations and expressions of goodwill, and even today, we have the Negril Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club that are supporting the team that is doing the testing there, and so we have been collaborating and we appreciate that,” she said.

On December 11, the Westmoreland Health Department staged a COVID-19 and dengue prevention march in Savanna-la-Mar and Petersfield and conducted testing at Independence Park and the Petersfield Primary School.

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